Irish students are paying the second-highest fees for third level education in Europe, according to report published by the European Commission.
The report, which compares the college fees in 42 European education systems, found that only the United Kingdom (UK) charges students more for third level education than Ireland, with fees reaching just over €10,000 per year for most of the country, excluding Scotland where third level undergraduate education is free.
While Irish undergraduate students are charged fees of €3,000 per year, the report finds that 11 systems have no fees for first time undergraduates, which include Germany, Denmark, Finland, Greece, and Croatia. A further 14 education systems charge less than €1,000 per year. France, for example, charges students €184 per year.
In addition, a total of 17 European countries offer families tax relief or special allowances, or both, to reduce the amount these families have to pay to send their children to college, such as France, Switzerland, and Portugal. In Germany, where no college fees are paid, students are entitled to a combination of grants and interest free loans of up to €735 per month.
Tax relief is available for students attending college in Ireland, although not on the first €3,000 spent on tuition fees. Unlike the UK, Ireland does offer grant and fee waiving systems for low income students, such as the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant.
The UK operates a student loan scheme system. A similar system was suggested in the Cassells Report, which stated that a different funding model from the current model was needed for Irish universities. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently told an audience of Trinity students on College’s 425th anniversary that Ireland should not expect to see a UK-style loan system introduced. However, the government has not officially eliminated the possibility of introducing an income-contingent loan scheme.